Fuck my family. Fuck their hypocrisy, fuck their double standards, fuck their intolerance, their impatience, their arrogant religion and the condescension it teaches, and fuck the brains out of my parents for so indoctrinating my dear sister that she’s happy to squander her amazing intellect and wit on blind criticism of any reasoned thought that doesn’t fit the brainwashed mold of the narrow version of “morality” she grew up with.
For years, I’ve watched my youngest sister — seven years my junior — with admiration, awe, and at times more than a touch of envy. She’s struggled with depression, anxiety disorder, and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder; I have dealt with those myself, and my respect for her is enormous with the triumphs she’s had over them — not only conquering her inner foes but working harder than most to still excel academically. She’s got an incredible capacity to store seemingly limitless facts on myriad subjects, to recall in detail any bit of knowledge at any time, and more impressive still, present that knowledge along with her wisdom and insight in a manner perfectly suited to whatever her current audience may be.
I can’t count the times over the years when I needed a concise, targeted summary (for example) of a classic literary work, or a short description of a character from Greek mythology, or a brief biography and highlights of an artist — and she was there to be my personal encyclopedic reference, complete with comparisons to other sources, witty and humor-filled side-notes, and insightful opinion on whether it would likely be worth my time to do further research… or if I honestly would bore myself silly or even suffer through the consumption of literary tripe by looking up “the real thing.”
Then there were the long talks — we’d sit for hours discussing everything under the sun, and then some; I learned many things about the world, about people and societies, about my sister, and especially about myself.
When she decided to go to college, I was so happy for her. She ended up at a college in a small Oregon town, and after the initial shock of being away from home for the first time, seemed to have settled in quite well, and seemed to be enjoying her classes.
Seemed. Until she got home for Christmas a few days ago, and one of the first things she said was to my dad, something to the effect of “I wish I had brought my textbooks so I could show you all the crazy lies they’re trying to teach us.” Then today she sat behind closed doors with him for a couple hours — I don’t know what the topic was at that point, but it was a very intense discussion… both sounded quite outraged about something.
Oh, but then they decided they needed a snack. They brought the whole thing into the kitchen, right next to where I had been enjoying some relaxing chat with my friends and having fun with a game I’ve been playing recently. When I heard my sister exclaim in outrage, “So, I just can’t believe some of the things they get away with teaching! Like, in my Interpersonal Communication class, they were teaching — get this! — social theories as if they were fact, or even legitimate, like gender and gender roles being a social construct…” Which is where my dad interrupted and finished for her, “You mean instead of eternal principles created by our loving Heavenly Father to guide His children in His sacred Plan of Happiness?”
I expected as much from him. What truly crushed me, though, was her immediate, enthusiastic shout of, “Yeah! Exactly!” I couldn’t listen any more, so I shoved my earphones in, dialed up the volume, and let the music take me. Unfortunately, every time a song faded out or ended with a second or two of silence, I was treated to more snippets of their criticism and bashing everyone who didn’t think their way. They sat in the kitchen yakking for easily an hour after they ate, too.
So my sister seems dedicated and true to her faith — there are worse things a person could cling to, and there’s always the hope that she’ll grow beyond that fearful shell one day. Maybe the fact that she still supports the same church our parents raised us in would account for her preferential treatment, I don’t know — but that brings me to my second point.
For a literal majority of my twenty-seven years, I didn’t care in the least about my personal hygiene. I seldom brushed my teeth — if I happened to notice yellow gunk covering half of my teeth, I might take 10 seconds to scrape it off with a fingernail. I went for days, sometimes, without bathing — and when I did take a “bath” I usually just filled the tub with very hot water, then drifted off to sleep for twenty minutes or so before waking, splashing some shampoo across my buzzed hair, and climbing out. I was angry and resentful of what I perceived as incessant bitching from my mom to keep myself clean; I cringed at every “Scott, would you please brush your teeth before you lie down for the night? I’m concerned that your gums are looking swollen and red.” — what I heard, from my end, was “Scott! Brush your teeth already! You’re incapable of caring for yourself, and I’m going to force you to live your life my way; forget any crazy ideas you had about personal choice!”
One day, though, I was out spending time with some very good friends. I don’t recall where, or what we might have been saying, but I suddenly realized, “I stink. I really smell awful! I can’t honestly recall the last time soap touched my skin, I haven’t brushed my teeth since who-knows-when, and — yeah — I can feel the days and days’ worth of food built up on them; that must look so gross. I’m not wearing deodorant, these jeans haven’t been washed in close to a month… Damn. If any of my friends here matched my description, I wouldn’t want to be in the same room let alone two feet away chatting and laughing as if everything were fine. This needs to change.”
So I started actually caring about my body. Now, this also happened to be about the same time I started shaving my pubic hair and my legs — so naturally I started taking longer in the bath. Where before I rarely took more than 20 minutes, and on days when I slept a little longer, maybe an entire half-hour, I was now taking an hour or more, between shaving my legs, (lots of area to cover!) my mound, (so many different directions to go over things for a smooth finish…) and more recently my arms… then actually taking the time to wash head-to-toe before shampooing my hair, which I have more of since I’m growing it out.
Cue the angry mob… I mean, angry mom. Suddenly I’m getting flak about all the time I’m wasting doing nothing in there when other people need in, and I’m preventing them from getting things done. Wait, hold up a second! Flash back fifteen years, to this same house with not three but SEVEN people sharing the same single bathroom every weekday morning, and having even more prepping to do each Sunday as we all put on our best suits, ties, and dresses for church. When I say “sharing,” I mean that quite literally — while one person washed in the bath, there was always someone else brushing their teeth, combing their hair, or just as often using the toilet. There was a fully opaque shower curtain from the floor to near the ceiling; nobody worried about seeing or being seen, and with that many people, it was just part of life when everybody needed to be ready on time.
Okay, so fast-forward to.. say, a year ago. We had four people in the house: me, my youngest sister, and my parents. My dad hops in the shower, and less than three minutes later he’s back out and drying off. How he manages to actually wash anything in that time is beyond me; for how little time he takes I wonder if he wouldn’t be just as well off with a bowl of standing water to splash around and dab off. My mom gets in there, fills the tub, and by the time she’s turned off the water, she’s somehow ready to get out. I was still clueless about keeping clean, so if I was in there, I was either just soaking or asleep. My sister… she goes in, fills the tub, and an hour or so later my mom calls in, “Dear, are you done yet?” Usually the answer is “No, not yet!” and she takes whatever time she needs before getting out. For a while, because of some things I’d overheard in hushed voices between my parents, and loud and tearful cries from my sister when she was in talking to my dad one-on-one, I thought — I hoped, really — that she had discovered the joys of masturbation, and prayed that she would come to terms with reality as opposed to the “you’ll go to Hell for being immoral!” line from her church.
Even so, I never had a problem maintaining the old family ways with her — if I needed in there to piss, or I had to get ready to leave somewhere and had massive bed-head, I’d simply knock, wait for her to make sure the curtain was fully closed, and let her call for me to enter. She didn’t seem to mind the same in return; I’d been in there bathing when she needed a fresh tampon, for example, and I wasn’t going to tell her to “just wait until I’m out, would ya?!” But we two were the only ones who could deal with that, apparently, and that leads us back to…
Present day. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, my sister is home for Christmas; she’s staying about a month. I haven’t bathed in two days or so, because I’ve been trying to find times when nobody’s around for an hour or more, meaning nobody for my mom to claim I’m keeping out of the bathroom… and the chance hasn’t happened. Three or four days ago, I got in the bath around quarter past midnight, because I was feeling sick from the overpowering B.O. I was hitting myself with — perfect time of day, too, since everybody was just climbing in bed. Well, tonight about the same time my mom announced that she was going to head to bed… I asked her if she was going to be in the bathroom while getting ready for bed; I expected she was but I hadn’t been stalking her or anything and I didn’t know if she’d already been in there. She snapped back, “of course!” sounding quite offended, so in an attempt to clarify, I mentioned that I’d hoped to take a bath, but I’d been waiting until no one would need in — thereby avoiding the heated issue of inconveniencing the rest of the family. Well, if it’s not one thing, it’s another, and she gripes, “I really don’t want you getting in the bathroom this time of night. There are so many times during the day when the bathroom is free for a half-hour…”
I was pretty fed up by then, and pointed out — in quite a rude tone, I admit — “Exactly! Free for a half-hour!” and walked off to my computer. Sat there and tried to vent to RPJ… that was a bit awkward, since I strongly suspect he didn’t want to hear all about me shaving my legs yet again, or any of the “Boo-hoo! My life sucks!” manner I used to present things. My mom went to bed, and of course so did I — another day of itchy stubble, another day of stench, another day of oily, matted hair, all because if I take more than 30 minutes, I’ve broken the statistical gremlin’s calculator that says on average, somebody might have needed in there, whether anyone actually did or not.
And now, at nearly half past three in the morning, our asshole neighbors across the street are sitting with their ghetto-blasters cranking out either the local FM station of Mexican music, or some of their own CDs of the same style. Just yesterday I was sitting in our living room at about 11:30 AM, with headphones on and my music turned up; I couldn’t figure out, at first, why the beat kept sounding “off” until I realized that I was not only hearing an extra bassline, but feeling the floor shake with every thump. Paused my track and made a note of the time… couldn’t enjoy my music, so I just sat there trying not to strangle someone. 45 minutes later, I tried getting up and walking around to let off some steam, but it wasn’t helping when nowhere in the house was safe from the continuing thump-thump-thump of the bass. I went in and mentioned my frustration to my mom, who stated quite calmly, “well, it’s not as if it happens very often, and… y’know, sometimes people just are that way! It’s not as if I can do anything about it.”
I said, “Actually, you could give me the non-emergency police number…”
“Why? It’s not as if they would do anything, even if they could — which they can’t. Just wait it out,” was her reply.
“Fine,” I caved, “but I will tell you that it does happen often — and for much too long at a time. Just because you’re asleep or out shopping doesn’t mean it’s not happening.”
What do you guys think? Do they have the right and the expectation to be able to broadcast their music choice into every house on the block for hours at a time? Does it matter or make a difference whether it’s three or four people standing by their car chatting over the music in the middle of the morning for two hours, or twenty people yelling across the yard, screaming at their kids, and blasting their tunes for six or seven hours from 7 PM on until the middle of the night? Is there anything the cops can do, and do they have any obligation to respond to a non-emergency call of that nature? Do I have any right or ability to make that call to the police, if I’m not a homeowner here, even if I’m legally an adult?
I’m not expecting any valid legal advice here, but just an informal survey to see what people think. Leave a comment, say whatever.
And forgive me if I’ve developed the supervillian superpower of “Super-knockout body gas!” next time I see some of you…